Blues Wireless has announced the Notecard Outboard Firmware Update, an over-the-air (OTA) firmware update capability that will set a new standard for flexibility and security in the IoT industry. This innovation allows device builders to implement firmware updates in their devices without writing any code whatsoever, but by making a few simple wiring changes between the Notecard and their microcontroller (MCU). Developers may choose from a large number of MCUs, programming languages, and real-time operating systems (RTOS), and can even perform updates on ‘native’ applications with no code from Blues and no RTOS at all. This capability from Blues continues to ease the developer’s IoT journey, bringing cellular cloud-connected products realistically within reach of every developer, no matter their skill level.
The ability to update firmware over-the-air is table stakes in IoT, enabling remote delivery of bug fixes and security updates to devices well after they’ve been deployed to customers. To-date, implementing firmware updates is a complex and highly risky endeavor, requiring code that safely “swaps itself” in-place – reverting to “last known good” versions upon failure. This tricky code is generally placed within the application itself, or within its RTOS, requiring a special ‘bootloader’ and firmware layout.
The Blues Wireless Notecard acts as a “secure co-processor” designed to offload cellular communication burdens from the application, including that of downloading and verifying firmware updates from the cloud. Now, by giving the Notecard control over the MCU’s “strapping pins”, the Notecard’s new Outboard Firmware Update capability enables it to reset and lay-down new firmware and data into the MCU’s storage “from the outside”, requiring no cooperation with the application or RTOS running within that target. The Notecard can install new firmware regardless of whether the MCU is hung, running rogue firmware, or just in need of new features and functions.
Key features of the firmware update capability include:
- A large number of MCUs are supported.
- It’s independent of RTOS and programming language, making it easy to develop and deploy a prototype, update it in the field, and even change RTOS after-the-fact.
- Non-functional (bricked) devices damaged by corrupted firmware, malware attack, or just an ‘infinite loop’ can be recovered.
- Partial app updates can be performed – such as the installation of a new machine learning model – saving on data usage costs for large updates.
Companies building cloud-connected devices need to consider how they’ll maintain and enhance their products as they scale from prototype to full field deployment of potentially hundreds of thousands of devices. This challenge only multiplies for cellular-based products. Blues has created the Notecard and Notehub specifically to remove the cost and complexity from IoT development, and to enable secure and economical operations at scale. Outboard Firmware Update is yet another commercial-grade capability that Blues is now providing to its customers.
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